How Israel protects its settlers who burn Palestinian children alive

A relative mourns next to the body of 18-month-old Palestinian Ali Dawabsha, who was killed after his family’s house was set on fire in a suspected attack by Jewish settlers in Duma village in the occupied West Bank on 31 July.

Ahmad Talat APA images

Before dawn on Friday morning, Ali Dawabsha, an 18-month-old Palestinian toddler, was burned to death in an arson attack on two homes in the village of Duma in the northern occupied West Bank.

The murder of Ali Dawabsha is not the first time Israeli settlers have burned Palestinians alive.

Given the impunity Israel grants its settlers, what chance is there really that Ali’s killers will be brought to justice?

“We saw four settlers running away keeping distance between each other,” 23-year old Musallam Dawabsha, one of the villagers who tried to assist, told Ma’an News Agency. “We tried to chase them but they fled to the nearby Maaleh Efraim settlement.”

A Hebrew word painted on the wall of one of two houses damaged in an arson attack in Duma village in the occupied West Bank, 31 July, reads “Revenge.” Another slogan painted on the house read “Long live the Messiah King.”

Ahmad Talat APA images

The attackers also left behind graffiti making clear their racist motives: they painted a Star of David and the words “revenge” and “Long live the Messiah King” on the walls.

Ali’s mother is now in critical condition with serious burns over 90 percent of her body. His father has burns on 80 percent and Ali’s 4-year-old brother has 60 percent burns.

Crocodile tears

Following this horror, Israeli officials from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on down have put on an ostentatious show of condemnation and sorrow and vows to bring the killers to justice.

At the same time, the occupation has begun its collective punishment of Palestinians, moving reinforcements into the West Bank to repress potential protests and barring Palestinians from al-Aqsa mosque in occupied Jerusalem.

Family photos lie in the debris of the house in which 18-month-old Ali Dawabsha was burned to death in an attack by suspected Jewish settlers, Duma, occupied West Bank, 31 July.

Ahmad Talat APA images

It is hard to imagine a more hypocritical display than the crocodile tears of the same leaders who perpetrated the massacre of 2,200 Palestinians in Gaza last year, more than 500 of them children, now feigning outrage at the murder of one more.

Of course the Israeli declarations have a specific goal: to try to paint the killing of Ali Dawabsha as an exceptional act and to obscure the reality that the violence of individual settlers is integral to the structure of Israeli colonial occupation and apartheid.

For Israel this is a mere public relations crisis and the expressions of outrage and “sorrow” are no more than the hasbara – propaganda – prescribed by spin doctors for the current news cycle.

Equally hypocritical would be any condemnations from the US administration of President Barack Obama which regularly boasts about how much it has done to arm and finance Israel and protect it from any accountability.

As the satirical Twitter account @Ask_Netanyahu put it so well:

“A matter of time”

“A burned infant was only a matter of time,” Israeli human rights group B’Tselem declared after this morning’s attack.

“This is due to the authorities’ policy to avoid enforcing the law on Israelis who harm Palestinians and their property,” the group added. “This policy creates impunity for hate crimes, and encourages assailants to continue, leading to this morning’s horrific result.”

“In recent years, Israeli civilians set fire to dozens of Palestinian homes, mosques, businesses, agricultural land and vehicles in the West Bank,” B’Tselem said. “The vast majority of these cases were never solved, and in many of them the Israeli police did not even bother to take elementary investigative actions.”

Impunity and laxness is the norm even in the most brutal and egregious cases.

Just over a year ago a group of Israeli youths abducted and burned to death the eastern occupied Jerusalem teenager Muhammad Abu Khudair.

In that case, Israeli police took their sweet time to find the suspects, despite the fact that they had video footage of their faces and getaway car (first published exclusively by The Electronic Intifada).

It was perhaps only due to the massive international outrage that they bothered to find them at all.

Their case is grinding its way through Israeli courts but there’s little reason to trust a system that treats Israelis who attack or kill Palestinians with exceptional leniency.

This month, two Israelis who burned a Jewish-Arab school in Jerusalem got a light sentence despite the fact that they were totally unrepentant. On leaving court, they declared that the crime was “worth it” in order to deter Jewish and Arab “assimilation.”

Burned in a taxi

Then there was the case of the family who settlers burned alive on 16 August 2012.

Jamila Hassan, her husband Ayman and their children Iman, 4, and Muhammad, 6, were riding in a taxi south of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank, along with another passenger and the driver.

The car was hit by a Molotov cocktail. Ayman and the two children were badly injured. Muhammad suffered severe burns all over his body.

“We are lost, our life has turned upside down. The father, son and daughter are each in different worlds, our life is difficult and miserable,” Jamila told Ma’an News Agency two weeks after the attack.

Muhammad had just emerged in agony from yet another surgery. “He screams from the pain a lot,” his mother said.

At that time too there were Israeli promises of “justice.” But what happened?

Police arrested three minors from a nearby Jewish settlement and told the judge that they had found fingerprints at the scene linking the suspects to the crime.

According to Haaretz, Judge Yaron Mintkevich ruled to keep the boys in custody “with a heavy heart, due to their age” – they were reported to be between 12 and 13.

But in January 2013, Israeli prosecutors dropped the case, citing a “lack of evidence.”

Had they been Palestinian children accused of throwing stones at occupation soldiers, they would have been kept in custody for months, subjected to horrific abuse amounting to torture and forced to confess.

Obviously, that’s not how Israel treats its own settlers who are subject to Israeli civil law, while Palestinians, including children, are subject to Israel’s military kangaroo courts.

Dismantle Israeli apartheid

That built-in colonial inequality is a reminder that the settlers are not the cause, but merely an ugly manifestation of Israeli colonial violence, rooted in Zionism, that is fed from the top.

Who can believe that a “justice” ministry led by Ayelet Shaked – who in her notorious genocidal appeal last year called for the killing of Palestinian mothers who give birth to “little snakes” – can do justice for Palestinians?

Perhaps the settlers who burned little Ali to death had taken the words of Shaked or any of the other Israeli politicians who routinely incite against Palestinians in the most extreme and violent terms to heart.

The bottom line is this: the murder of hundreds of children in Gaza last summer, the burning of Muhammad Abu Khudair, the attack that killed Ali Dawabsha are all part of the price Palestinians must pay for Israel to continue to exist and expand on their land as a racist self-declared “Jewish state.”

The only way Ali Dawabsha or any other Palestinian can ever get justice from the Israeli apartheid system is if it is completely dismantled.

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While the roots of the term "Price Tag" has been attributed to as early as 1998, as late as 2009 "...a coordinated north-south campaign still hadn't been realized". https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/...

In March 2010 The Reut Institute submitted to the 10th Herzliya Conference a 92 page report entitled Building a Political Firewall Against Israel's Delegitimization.
http://reut-institute.org/data...

This report advocated "a mounting counter-offensive aimed at branding...[Israel's delegitimiizers] for their true values." and for "establishing a 'price tag" (Reut thanked both the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Head of Israel's Brand Management Team Ido Aharoni and Senior Advisor to the Prime Minister for Policy Planning Ron Dermer for insight and expanding on this theme.)

Later the report referred to “Establishing a ‘Price Tag’- Today, attacking Israel is ‘cheap’ and convenient, but it can be turned into a more risky enterprise.” (page 74)
The report continued “Let the local pro-Israel community guide - ...the local pro-Israel community would be better positioned to lead the struggle against the delegitimizers with great sensitivity to local nuances and context than the Israeli delegation.” (Reut Report, page 69)

Who Funds Reut Institute? “The American Friends of the Reut Institute (AFRI) is a non-profit organization registered in the United States and operating under the laws of the State of California. Its mission is ro advance a vision of a prosperous and secure Israel. AFRI is the single largest supported of the Reut Institute, and the Reut Institute is the chief recipient of AFRI’s donations.”

Reut Institute was founded in January, 2001 by Gidi Grinstein (first and current (2010) president following his service in the Bureau of the Prime Minister (Barack) as the Secretary of the Israel Delegation for the Negotiations with the PLO (1999-2001).

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I greave. Let us all follow International law and eradicate the settlers who cause death. Let's also follow Israeli law and demolish the homes of these perpetrators of terroristic arson.

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It's time for Hilary Clinton to break off her political campaign and join PM Benyamin
Netanyahu in his condolences. What a marvelous photo-op!!! Meanwhile, Ms.
Clinton can visit the hospital as did her idol Mr.Netanyahu. She could talk with
its dying patients (Hillary so SOO good at that kind of thing!). While there and
speaking in public to the world (on TV of course) she might visit (on camera) with
Palestinian activists fighting against Israeli terrorism. (What about a visit to
an Israeli prison which tortures Palestinians and where forced feeding will
now be "legal"---according to Israeli law, not international law.)

Ms. Clinton, you've got it made! Seize the opportunity!

I can see a great political opportunity when I see one. Netanyahu has shown
you the way. Public funerals make the best politics as we in America know
again and again.

---Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA

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Once sanctions against Iran can lead to a successful resolution of conflict then why to oppose the same against Israel ? Simple Hippocry and dishonestly at its core. Mere Condemnation to demolitions and terrorist acts by settlers to burn the houses in the middle of night is a lip service to mute the intellectual inquiry and demand for justice by the public - a real face of modern functional democracy!!!

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NPR/BBC etc all played that Netanyahu statement as if he had never torched Palestinians. Such a nice guy, they beamed.
But none of them said anything about the fact that Netanyahu speaks for "Israeli citizens" and can only offer cynical words of "wish for quick recovery" to the victims of his occupation who are non-existent as human beings in Israel's occupation of their land. Meanwhile, the murderers are illegal settlers who Netanyahu represents (his "citizens") and protects with lethal force as they wipe out the rest of Palestine. Removing this context from headline news is intentional lying. As people in the US learn more and more of the truth, this will discredit those "news" outlets.

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I agree Karen.
Israel cannot be allowed to last in its present form. If we cannot persuade our governments to cut off all aid, impose sanctions and isolate it for the uncivilised, pariah state that it is then we the people must do all in our power to bring it down. The BDS is a sure but slow way to do this but there is still too much indifference in the world in general.

Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.